Wednesday, January 8, 2014

NSA Limericks, Jim Bidzos' Threats, and the 1st RSA Conference

I found some illuminating and very funny quotes that depict the adversarial relationship that existed between the NSA and RSA before the controversial $10M contract deal of 2004:

"There is a group at Fort Meade
who fear that which they cannot read
so they fight with their friends
(God knows to what ends! )
In attempts to get more than they need."
-- Jim Bidzos, CEO of RSA Data Security (source: Sam Simpson Cryptography Quotes)
"If I see you in the parking lot, I'll run your ass over"
- NSA Export Officer to Jim Bidzos (Head of RSA), April '94 (pg 287, Crypto by S.Levy)
"(C) Jim Bidzos, the aggressive RSA representative, was unable to attend but curmudgeon Whit Diffle presented a frail RSA position (Bidzos would have been much more implacable) and was essentially ignored by the panel."
Declassified NSA "Cryptolog" March, 1994, p.17 describing a meeting at Eurocrypt '92 held on May 24-28, 1993 in Hungary.
 And then I found this recounting by Jim Bidzos of how the first RSA Security conference came about:
"Yost: You mentioned the conference. Can you talk a bit about the origin of the RSA Data
Security Conference, about both the founding and the early years of it?
"Bidzos: Yes, actually it originated—you know there’s another example where there’s just
one moment, one phone call where this happened—right about the time that the
Electronic Frontier Foundation was being born around 1991. And actually it was also the
time that something called CPSR, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, was
becoming EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The director of which is a
guy named Marc Rotenberg.
"This was a time when the government made an announcement. I don’t think it was the Clipper chip at the time, I think it was something called the DSA. Anyway they were starting to try to set or dictate [encryption] standards for the business community. They had made some announcement and Marc called me up
and said, “They’ve just announced this. Have you seen this?”
"And I said, “Yes.” And he said, “What are we going to do about this?” And I said, “I don’t know. It sounds to me like the best thing we can do is educate people, so maybe what we ought to do is host a
conference and educate people about this. I’ve got access to a lot of people who can talk about it.”
"It was his phone call, basically pleading, “What are we going to do? What are you going to do?” He was really bothered by DSA, seemed up in arms and didn’t know what to do. All that nervous energy that I felt somehow made me feel obligated to do something. So that’s when I came up with this idea to have this conference. So I got Rivest and a few other people, I think Marty Hellman was there, Taher El Gamal and
some other people to say this is a bad idea and here’s why. And so we let people come for free, I think we got sixty people. It just seemed like a good thing to do again the following year."
How times have changed.

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